2017 NACS Show Boasts Record-Breaking Attendance and Showfloor

November 3, 2017

The NACS Show celebrated a record-breaking jump in attendance and size at its most recent event, held Oct. 17-20 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

As the largest annual trade show and conference for the U.S. convenience and fuel retailing industry, the 25th annual NACS Show boasted a 7 percent increase in overall attendance, drawing in 24,940 attendees from 63 countries, and a 3.3 percent growth in buyers (classified as retailers and convenience distributors, including Petroleum Equipment Institute registrants), according to The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, which owns and runs the show.

In addition, 1,263 exhibitors spanned a 425,800 net square foot showfloor, NACS’ largest expo ever.

“The higher NACS Show attendance this year is reflective of a few trends, most notably the growing importance of convenience retailing,” explained Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.

He continued, “Small format retail, including convenience retailing, has grown even as other retail channels lose sales to the internet. Our industry continues to focus on its value proposition of immediate consumption as it grows its foodservice offer. At the same time, we are targeting our educational offer and carefully managing the growth of the expo floor to ensure that our supplier partners get value.”

The event’s general session speakers featured industry, business and leadership experts, while attendees had the chance to choose from 60 education sessions covering relevant industry topics ranging from foodservice and food safety, to leadership development and marketing, to technology and fuels.

Mirroring the growing international opportunities offered at NACS, select education sessions were translated into Portuguese and Spanish, with general sessions translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

Making its debut this year was the popular NACS Ideas 2 Go program, a fast-paced video program of emerging concepts designed to redefine convenience.

In addition, the NACS Convenience Matters podcast recorded 12 new episodes that included NACS Show general session speakers William Shatner and Chip Conley, as well as a special live session with prominent convenience retail industry CEOs Billy Milam of RaceTrac Petroleum and Kevin Smartt with Kwik Chek Food Stores.

Meanwhile, the Cool New Products Preview Room showcased 312 new products and services from 186 companies. Visitors were able to use handheld scanners to capture product and exhibitor booth information, resulting in nearly 20,000 total product scans.

The expo’s New Exhibitor area, featuring 200 exhibitors new to the convenience and fuel retailing industry and the NACS Show, also was a popular destination for attendees.

In its fourth year at the show, TechEdge attracted 470 industry technology professionals who participated in the program’s specialized education sessions on topics ranging from data security to how to improve overall operational efficiency.

This year, the TechEdge Center at the expo displayed three future technologies in-action that addressed mobile payments, connected commerce and IoT monitoring.

Attendees also experienced NACS’ new brand identity, which focuses on the “C” in convenience.

“I love the versatility of the ‘C’ with our rebrand,” said Henry Armour, NACS president and CEO. “It certainly stands for convenience – but it can stand for so many other aspects of our industry.”

Other unique industry facets that the “C” represents include customers, Armour added, referring to the fact that the U.S. convenience store industry serves more than 160 million customers per day – half of the country’s total population.

“C” also stands for community, a message that was exemplified by charitable donations made to local food banks both before and after the NACS Show.

Prior to the event, Tyson Foods and NACS partnered to donate a truckload of protein totaling 36,060 pounds to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help fight hunger in the Chicagoland area. The Food Depository will distribute the donated food – an equivalent to 144,240 meals – through its network of partner agencies that include food pantries, soup kitchens and shelter services across Chicago and Cook County.

At the conclusion of the show, more than 52,000 pounds of refrigerated and frozen food product was collected by Greater Chicago Food Depository volunteers, while the Ronald McDonald House collected 70,000 lbs. of shelf-stable goods for use in their local facilities and other charities.

“We truly believe that c-store doesn’t just stand for convenience store – it also stands for community store, and we are proud to join Tyson Foods in supporting the Chicagoland community that we call home this week during the NACS Show,” Lenard said.

Newly elected 2017-2018 NACS Chairman Joe Sheetz, president and CEO of Sheetz Inc., also expounded on the industry’s CSR focus.

“Our industry’s commitment to the communities we serve is truly amazing,” Sheetz said during his Oct. 20 NACS Show speech. “We collectively contribute $1 billion a year to charities.”

He continued, “But it’s not about just stroking checks. It’s about volunteering time, donating product and supporting first-responders. There is no industry more grounded in their communities than we are.”

The 2018 NACS Show will take place Oct. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The annual trade show and conference, which ranked No. 48 on the TSNN 2016 Top 250 U.S. Trade Shows list, rotates between three cities: Chicago, Las Vegas and Atlanta.​​​​​​​

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Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.